Self-weaning usually occurs when a baby, who is well over a year old, gets most of their nutrition from solids, drinks from a cup, and cuts down on breastfeeding.
Self-weaning usually occurs when a baby, who is well over a year old, gets most of their nutrition from solids, drinks from a cup, and cuts down on breastfeeding. Self-weaning occurs when a little one no longer has any emotional or nutritional requirement for breast milk.
1. A decrease in milk supply
Sometimes, mothers mistakenly believe that their baby’s lack of interest in breastfeeding is due to self-weaning. This lack of interest can be as a result of a lack of milk being produced. If a mum’s milk supply is depleted then baby may grow to prefer cup or bottle feeding as they grow to realise that they can get more milk this way.
A vicious cycle really, as your baby starts to prefer the bottle or cup and looks less for your breast, your body will produce less milk. Causing your child to become frustrated and stop breastfeeding if there is a drop in the amount milk that you're making.
There are a lot of things that can cause a reduced milk supply including reduced feeds, rapid weight loss in the mother, and use of medications (such as contraceptives). Your period returning or a new pregnancy are also other factors that can cause a decrease in your supply.
But know that there are an abundance of things, you as a mother can do to increase your breastmilk supply. Talk to your doctor, a local breastfeeding group, or a lactation consultant for help.
2. Developmental Leap
Another possible reason for a lack of interest in breastfeeding can be a developmental phase. It is quite common for an infant between 6 and 12 months to show less interest in breastfeeding. This is not caused by the infant’s desire to self-wean.
Older babies tend to be easily distracted and many mothers mistakenly believe this to be their baby’s desire to self-wean. If you are feeding your baby from a cup or a bottle than they will discover that they can feed and explore at the same time while breastfeeding requires them to sit still. Again, mums may take this as a cue that their little one is ready to self-wean.
Teething pain can make a child uncomfortable and not want to breastfeed. You can try to relieve teething pain by giving your little one something to chew on or massaging her gums before you begin to breastfeed.
Many mums don’t consider this lack of interest in breastfeeding to be temporary and go ahead and self-wean. This is not necessarily a bad thing but mums should know that weaning their babies during this stage may not be self-weaning and is, in fact, their own decision.
Mothers need to be aware of the reasons an older baby might show a sudden lack of interest in breastfeeding so they can make a more informed decision about weaning.
Tips If You Do Not Wish to Stop Breastfeeding
There are things you can do to avoid premature weaning such as:
- If your breast milk has depleted-take measures to restore it.
- Always offer breastmilk first before feeding any solids. If she's hungry or thirsty, she may be more willing to breastfeed.
- Limit bottles and soothers.
- Don’t let baby walk around with bottles or cups.
- Offer to breastfeed your baby often.
- Try wearing a breastfeeding necklace to keep your baby interested while breastfeeding or give Baby a small toy while on the breast.
If your baby is refusing to breastfeed, pump. Pumping can help to increase and maintain your supply.
Try to be patient and remember that this is just a normal developmental stage that some children go through.
If this is the end of your breastfeeding journey, go easy on yourself, both mentally and physically. If your baby has self-weaned gradually you’re halfway there. If not, try and breastfeed or pump and gradually cut out a feed one by one to prevent sore breasts and the possibility of mastitis.
Emotionally - the chemical “come down” when you stop breastfeeding is no joke. It is a real drop in oxytocin, which will leave you feeling vulnerable, down and even upset. Go easy on yourself mama and take it one day at a time.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Writer and blogger at www.lovelifeandlittleones.co